UN Women, AWLN Brainstorm On Ending Violence Against Women, Girls

2023-08-31 18:54:59

Independent Newspapers Nigeria

ABUJA - The UN Women in collaboration with Africa Women Leaders' Network (AWLN) and other critical stakeholders has brainstormed on how to end the increasing cases of violence against women and girls as well as ensure more representation in democratic governance in Nigeria.

Speaking on Thursday in Abuja at the Africa Women Leaders' Network (AWLN) Roundtable, Ms. Beatrice Eyong, UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, explained that AWLN was established "with a vision to unite African Women Leaders on pertinent issues of peace and security, ending violence against women and girls, inter-generational mentorship, and women's representation in leadership."

Eyong noted that UN Women and AWLN, have worked collectively to drive Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (GEWE) in the country.

Commenting on their achievements since the formation of AWLN in 2017, she said:

"Our collective achievements include reaching over 15,000 women and girls through the AWLN and Federal Ministry of Women Affairs-led lead humanitarian response to COVID-19.

"AWLN through its extensive network, was able to identify women-owned businesses and spearhead distribution of palliatives to women-led households.

"Today as we take stock of the advancements made in addressing violence against women and girls,we will have to touch on the momentous advocacy led by AWLN and the Nigerian Governors Wives Forum toward the declaration of a State of Emergency on Rape and Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

"That is a notable achievement of which we must be proud - over 95% of States have passed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act.

"AWLN members have further been at the forefront of advocacy on legislation to increase women's leadership representation as most recently witnessed in the March for Women on five gender bills on political representation and citizenship."

She, however, underscored the need to sustain pressure on the passage of the Gender Equal Opportunities (GEO) Bill and related legislation that increases women's representation in governance.

Eyong further advocated the need for synergies and collaborations among critical stakeholders, "with innovative interventions in alignment with the Government, namely, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, and civil society through women's led organisations and networks."

She pledged UN Women's support and full solidarity with the African Women Leaders' Network, adding that "We should look to invest resources in support to survivors of violence and their access to justice.

"We should look to invest resources in the emergence of women leaders across all sectors and breaking down the barriers that would look to hinder them."

In her keynote address, Prof. Oluwafunmilayo Para-Mallam, Chair AWLN, Nigeria Chapter, further identified all forms of physical, sexual, psychological and socio-economic gender-based violence women and girls in Nigeria have been grappling with.

Para-Mallam who quoted data and figures to buttress the plight of women and girls in Nigeria, said: "The 2023 Global Slavery Index report ranks Nigeria 38/160 countries in trafficking in persons with 1.6 million slaves identified, over 80% of whom are females.

"And, according to NAPTIP 2019-2020 data, about 61% of them are trafficked in-country.

"According to the latest UNCHR data for 2021, 54.9% of the 2.2 million Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) in the North East were women and girls, with children comprising 56.6% of the total.

"Almost 36.8% of the 2.2 million reside in IDP camps where sexual abuse is rife without recourse to formal justice mechanisms.

"The data excludes IDPs from other parts of Nigeria, notably the North Central and the North West where violent attacks on communities, with significant gender impacts, persist."

She noted that the focal point of the meeting was "about scaling up and sustaining action towards ending violence against women and girls and paving a critical pathway for expanding female participation and representation in decision-making spaces, be it political or other spheres."

According to her, "It has been empirically verified by research, that every gender issue is in some ways related to gender-based violence which occurs in structural, systemic, cultural and direct forms.

"For instance, the gross gender imbalance in political representation is directly correlated with structural and systemic violence.

"Both are generated and reinforced by cultural violence in the form of customary and religious ideologies that circumscribe female freedom, civil liberties and potential.

"Ultimately, this mutually reinforcing system of misogynistic norms and practices disproportionately undercut targeted investment in female human capital development."

She, therefore, expressed optimism that the meeting would afford participants the opportunity "to strategise on how to harness our varied and valuable initiatives, efforts and agendas into a powerful momentum to change the narrative and reality of gender oppression, discrimination and disparity evidenced in the continued drudgery and injustice that characterise the lives of many women and girls in our nation."

2023-08-31 News